Animal antibiotic study halted

March 21, 2001

Animal antibiotic study halted


Maryland's rural senators on Wednesday blocked the state from studying antibiotic use by farmers.

Arguing the study would hurt the state's ailing farming industry, lawmakers killed it on a 16-to-30 vote.

Speaking against the study on the Senate floor, Sen. Donald F. Munson said Washington County dairy farmers are going out of business.

"This bill is only going to help accelerate that trend," said Munson, R-Washington.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Paula Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, said the use of antibiotics in animal feed may be helping to make bacteria increasingly drug-resistant.

"It's our lives and our families lives in the future which are at stake," she said.

Opponents said there is no evidence that farm use of antibiotics is contributing to the problem.

Sen. Andrew Harris, R-Baltimore County, a medical doctor, faulted doctors who overprescribe antibiotics and parents who demand them for their children.


Milk, beef and chicken that consumers buy at the grocery store does not contain antibiotics, Washington County Agricultural Extension Agent Don Schwartz said in a telephone interview after the vote.

Federal regulations already require the products to be tested and rejected if the test is positive, he said.

Antibiotics, however, are crucial to most farming operations, he said.

Dairy farmers routinely use antibiotics to treat mammary gland infections that plague one out of 100 cows on any given day.

The meat industry gives antibiotics to young animals through their feed to minimize infections, but the drugs are stopped long before the animals get to market, he said.

"These guys know what they're doing. They cannot afford to have an animal test positive. It's not good business," he said.

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